NEW ORLEANS — San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio doesn’t have a Hall of Fame vote. If he did, he would use it on former Panthers linebacker Kevin Greene.
Greene, whose 160 sacks rank third in NFL history, is a Hall of Fame finalist for the second year in a row. This year’s class will be announced following Saturday’s vote.
Greene played 15 seasons with four teams, including two stints with the Panthers totaling three seasons. Fangio was the Panthers’ defensive coordinator in 1996 when three of the team’s linebackers went to the Pro Bowl – Sam Mills, Lamar Lathon and Greene.
Fangio believes Greene’s sustained success – he had 10 seasons of double-digit sack totals – makes him worthy of induction. The two players with more sacks than Greene – Bruce Smith and Reggie White – both are enshrined in Canton.
“He did it consistently over a long period of time for different teams,” Fangio said Thursday. “He wasn’t just a one-trick pony. He played the run extremely well. He was very competent in pass coverage. So I see him as a complete player. And a complete player that did it over a long period of time should be in the Hall of Fame.”
Like the Panthers in 1996, the Niners had three of their four starting linebackers selected to the Pro Bowl this season – Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman.
“They’re similar in that they’re very productive, good players that fit the 3-4 scheme very well,” Fangio said. “Our guys are athletic. They don’t come off the field. They’re on the field almost every play.”
Union launches health study: With concussions and player safety on the front burner, the NFLPA has commissioned a team of Harvard doctors and researchers to conduct a $100 million study on the long-term health of players. The 10-year study will include 1,000 former players.
In a survey the union conducted near the end of this season, 78 percent of players said they did not trust their team’s medical staff. Union officials would not say how many players were surveyed, but said every team was included and the sample size was big enough to be scientific.
In addition, NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith said the union has filed a grievance after two teams – Seattle and San Diego – required players to sign a waiver before their team doctors would provide the painkiller Toradol.
The union also wants independent neurologists on the sidelines to determine the extent of head injuries, and wants every team doctor to go through a certification process.
Leaving on a high note: When Panthers general manager Marty Hurney was fired in October, he said he thought the Panthers needed more locker room leaders like Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Lewis, who is retiring after 17 seasons, said the impact he’s made on teammates is his most satisfying accomplishment.
“The game will fade one day, numbers will fall, accolades will wash away, but there is nothing better than changing someone’s life,” Lewis said. “I listen to men walk up and say, ‘Thank you for helping me. Thank you for changing my life. Thank you for showing me the right way.’ I think that is the ultimate reward.”